ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Case Keenum. Clinton McDonald. Jared Veldheer. Bradley Chubb. Courtland Sutton. Royce Freeman. Issac Yiadom. Josey Jewell. DaeSean Hamilton. Troy Fumagalli. Sam Jones.
Other than all being new additions to the 2018 Broncos, what do all of these guys have in common?
Just ask somebody that knows them.
"An awesome teammate.”
"Awesome in the locker room.”
"A perfect teammate.”
“His leadership, his ability to serve, he’s just a motivator."
"One of the best guys I know."
"Leads by example."
"Just a good person."
"Wherever he goes, whoever drafts him, he'll do something to help that community prosper."
11 of the Broncos' offseason acquisitions and all eight of their draft picks through the first six rounds are high-character players.
Oh, and let's not forget the re-signing of Todd Davis.
“Todd is special. Todd is one of our best leaders,” Vance Joseph said. "Todd is what I want all of our guys to aspire to be.”
It's a clear initiative from the top, the Broncos want to bring a certain type of player into their locker room.
"Courtland, as well as Royce and Isaac, they’re really, really good people," John Elway said after the first three rounds. "They’re really positive people. When you get that kind of feedback on them, you don’t have to do a whole lot of homework and visit with them too many times when you know that the background is there.”
When I was growing up, the Denver Broncos were always looked at as the good guys.
With John Elway at the helm, the Broncos were this very all-American, clean-cut, family-man franchise. Almost the Yankees of the NFL in terms of their standards.
Now, this is not to necessarily say they went away from that somewhere along the way, but this offseason—all the way up through the first six rounds of this draft—takes me back to those days.
Steve Atwater. Ed McCaffrey. Terrell Davis.
The Broncos were a team full of players that parents were proud to see their kids call their heroes.
In 2018, Denver is all in on that.
This team will be centered around Chris Harris Jr., Justin Simmons, Keenum, Von Miller, Davis and more. Guys that embody what it means to be a Bronco.
In the draft, they've doubled down.
In talking to Bradley Chubb's father, Aaron, on Friday afternoon, it was clear the No. 5 overall pick was a perfect fit.
"I was raised to treat people with respect and dignity and treat people how I wanted to be treated at all times," he said of the Chubb family code. "You want to be a good person. Just doing the right thing—those are some of the core values that we have."
I also once had a chance encounter with a couple who claimed to be the parents of Issac Yiadom's ex-girlfriend—not exactly the most likely people to have something nice to say about a young man—they described him as, "the nicest guy you'll ever meet," among the other 30 minutes of nice comments about his character.
Despite being the only pick who wasn't a team captain, Yiadom was Boston College's Jay McGillis Memorial Scholarship winner, given to the player who best exemplifies team dedication and leadership.
A source at Oregon described Royce Freeman—a team captain in 2017—as a guy who works extremely hard and leads by example.
As for Courtland Sutton, enjoy this excerpt from a fantastic piece on NFL.com.
Last August, when the Mustangs finished up each day during fall camp, the players would cut off their athletic tape and sit in cold tubs lined up beside the field for 10-15 minutes before showering. When
they were done, tape was strewn on the ground, and [the strength and conditioning coach] was left to clean up the daily mess. Sutton noticed that one day — only because he'd stayed late after practice to work on his craft — and helped Carroll collect the trash and throw it away.
A day later, there wasn't a scrap of tape on the ground after practice.
"He went into the locker room, said something to the team, and I haven't had to pick up tape since," Carroll said. "He's what you call a servant leader."
In talking to Sutton on Saturday afternoon, I heard him use that term "servant leader" himself, so I asked what the phrase means to him.
"To me, I think whether you're a Fortune 500 company or a football team—it doesn't matter what type of organization you are—if your leader understands what's important for the people and understands what's important for the organization as a whole, I think that's when you get the most out of that group of people. When you have a leader who sits on their high horse and says, 'Y'all do what I say, and that's that,' I think that you have a disconnect there and guys feel like they can't approach the leader. But when your leader is so willing to understand what the people need, explain the direction and be willing to come down and help everyone move in that one direction, then that's when you get the most success."
How about fourth-round pick Josey Jewell?
Well, he was the first sophomore in Iowa history to be voted by his teammates to the program’s leadership group. Of course, he's a team captain, as well. One of the reasons he's dreamed to play in the NFL is so he can save his family farm.
When the Broncos made their sixth selection in the draft, wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton, I had a feeling he would fit the mold.
I texted a friend who covered the Penn State Nittany Lions during his career.
"I just have one quick question: Did he stand out as a really good kid?"
"Yes x 1029383," she responded.
She went on to tell me that both of Hamilton's parents are Marines. His mother a breast cancer survivor. While she went through chemo and dad was deployed in Japan, DaeSean helped raise his non-verbal, autistic brother.
How about fifth and sixth-round picks Troy Fumagalli and Sam Jones? Both captains.
Check and check.
“We know that locker room is something that we’ve got to continue to work on,” John Elway said at a press conference in mid-March.
Consider that work done. In spades.
This is a proud moment for the Denver Broncos organization. After a 5-11 season, it would have been easy to sell their soul for a few wins. Instead, the Broncos are doubling down on the values set forth by the owner who made this franchise a winner in the first place.